Our time in Chicago technically started out the evening before, however I do not have any photos to document the momentous occasion of the Things trying deep dish pizza for the first time.  I had assumed that my children might share my love for the delicacy that is layers of dough and cheese but I was sadly mistaken.  No takers.  Not even Husband Jared.  Although he did indulge me and have a slice.

We rose early and began our walking tour, self guided, through Grant Park and to the Buckingham fountain.  Upon hearing the name of the rather large water display the Things were hoping they would blink and be in England, alas that was not the case.

We strolled along the lake shore and arrived at the Shedd Aquarium, the Things activity choice for the day.  There were displays from the Amazon River valley, Thailand, the Reefs and even the Great Lakes.  We saw all that we could see and decided it was time for a Chicago style hot dog.  At least Thing 4 decided it was time.  He has been talking incessantly about having a hot dog from a "cart".  Needless to say there were many options and we chose the closest one.  Too afraid to order, the Things waited by to see what would happen when he asked for ketchup.  Thankfully they obliged our Things and ketchup was given.  Whew.

What a view with the Chicago skyline!
From the aquarium we continued our trek through the city to find the L station.  We were headed to Lincoln Park.  After some help from a kind attendant we were able to navigate the lines and made our way successfully to Lincoln Park.  It was sad to see that Demon Dogs had been replaced by a new, larger elevated train station.  Although I am sure it was a necessary addition.  Anyhow, we walked and showed DePaul to the Things as well as the new softball field.  Things have definitely changed around those parts. Next stop, Lincoln Park zoo.  A free zoo in the middle of the city.  The lions were on display, primates, zebras, polar bears and even seals.   We rode the L back to the hotel and went for a swim.  
 Waiting for the train after the zoo

The cherry on top of the day was a Mexican dinner at a neighborhood restaurant.  Family friendly, authentic eats and conversation that covered highs and lows for the day.  I love that time of sharing.  Thing 2 decided that she wanted to speak in her British accent so I made it a bit more interesting.  If she could stay in "character" on the walk to the hotel I would buy her and the other Things icecream.  That meant she had to order in "character" and I was not "Mama", but Auntie Leanna.  Go figure.  This girl is great.  Not once did she waver, I even had to turn away a few times.  The venture was successful.  We all had an icecream cone!  I scream, you scream we all scream for icecream! 

Thing 2's Day

 Hi everyone! Today, July 14th,  I had a bad day. This morning we woke up, had breakfast, and went to go on the road to Chicago, but before we left St. Lois we stopped and got gooey butter bars. The day so far was pretty good , but my luck changed when we went to a park. There I was playing on the playground about to go on a slide when, BANG, I hit my knee and head on a metal bar before the slide.  I was hurting so I sat out for a little and then I felt better so I thought okay let's try again. Off I went to go play tag and while I was running away from Makenzie I went on a little rock climbing wall, and I fell and bumped the same place on my knee. I screamed in pain , but got up and limped over to walk with my family. We were walking and Will saw that we could go into an area where the pond was, so I went with him and started to walk on the edge. It was cool because I got to see a swan and some ducks, but then I started to slip and I fell in the pond. I got mad because I had my TOMS on and my knee really hurt. My mom pointed out to me that I got a scratch on the side of my knee and it was gushing blood. I wiped it off and looked at it and it wasn't that bad but it hurt like crazy. At the shop we went to to get our butter bars they had a bathroom, so I went and cleaned up and changed and we were on our way. The drive to Chicago wasn't bad at all, I slept, watched a movie, and listened to music. When we got to Chicago we checked in to our hotel, got settled, ad decided to go to dinner. We went to a place called  Giordanos where they had Chicago style pizza and it was family friendly. The hostess took us to our table and we got water and sat down. Will was talking to us and he swung his hand and spilled his water all over me! It was awful because he spilt his water all over my shorts and it looked like I wet my pants. I got up and went to the bathroom to try and dry it off and while I was doing this everyone who walked in stared at me. I was so embarrassed and felt really uncomfortable the whole dinner. Well after dinner we walked back to our hotel and I showered and changed. It was one of the worst days of my life, but I made it through with scratches, a huge bump on my knee, and a "pee" stain. Now for me I'd say that's pretty good.

St. Louis

Well we left Franklin and hit the road full speed ahead, at least until we happened upon St. Louis, MO.  And there we chose to stop and spend the night.  After a few errands and a few more stops along the way we arrived in St. Louis, crossing the bridge into MO from IL while looking below at the great Mississippi.  Our hotel was not far from the great Arch.  We decided a walk to the National Park was in order and we rode the tram to the top of the arch, over 600 feet in the air.  Thing 3 and I were a bit leary but we pressed forward not wanting to miss the experience.  I am so glad we did.  Although the ride was a bit cramped once we reached the top the view was out of this world.  The expanse of the city lay before us.  Everything from the barges on the river, Busch Stadium, the Jefferson Expansion Memorial and downtown St. Louis.  We ended the evening with a delicious dinner at a quaint Italian eatery and a walk under the stars.

The morning brought a much anticipated trip to a renowned coffee shop famous for it's ooey gooey butter cake.  Um, I'll take two please.  There are over 73 flavors of ooey gooey butter cake rotated at Park Avenue Coffee shop.  The owners were featured on Food Network and were winners of the Food Feud.  Rightfully so.  Thing 2 and Thing 3 shared the red velvet, Thing 1 and Thing 4 split the original and Husband Jared and I sampled the triple chocolate.  We were all quite impressed and immediately over the moon with our sweets.  With all that sugar flowing we decided to take some time to walk and play in the park in the sweet area of Lafayette Square.  It was there we played tag on the play equipment, looked at the swans and walked the beautiful flower gardens.  It was also there that Thing 2 had a bit of a mishap herself, I will let her tell you about that in her own blog post.  Trust me, you'll want to read it.
The Things sharing so nicely

Funny story.  Thing 1 immediately recognized what she described as a "dog food" smell in the city.  Consistently she asked both Husband Jared and myself why the entire city smelt of dog food.  And not just dog food but wet dog food.  Go figure.  On our way out of the city today we discovered her answer. The Purina factory.  A collective aha moment for sure.  We shared a laugh all the way onto the motorway.  Then we were off, goodbye St. Louis and your dog food smell, get ready Chicago, the Six Hansons are on their way!

Thing 2's Day

For those of you that don't know our family tradition surrounding birthday parties let me explain.  The Things are given a birthday party every other year.  That means two parties every year.  Of course they have family dinner and cake to celebrate on their special day.  This year is Thing 2's year for a party.  It is her 13th birthday, and she will enter the teenage years.  So, all that being said, she wanted to have her party in Franklin, where her friends are and not in the land of MN, where friends await to be made.  That brings us to the day.  A frozen yogurt party at Sweet Ce Ce's, her absolute favorite place in downtown Franklin. 

A few of her closest friends joined us at the site and they all devoured some delish fro-yo.  Yes, I did just say that.  If Thing 2 were reading this right now she would say, "really Mama, really?", to which I would reply, "yes, really".  Moving on.  After yogurt we walked Main St., browsed the shops and I relished every girly giggle, skip, hug and loud chatting that I heard from those girls' mouths.  Sweet music to this Mama's ears.

 The Girlies
Thing is, I know these moments are fleeting.  There won't ever be another 13th birthday for Thing 2 in downtown Franklin, or a moment where I sing, "Price tag", completely butchering the lyrics, but laughing through it nonetheless and embarrassing not only Thing 2 but the other Things as well.  Those are memories my friends.  That is life.  I for one am so grateful for Thing 2's day.   

The beginning...of the next chapter

Or so that's what I will call it.  Tomorrow morning we will depart for Minnesota, via St. Louis and Chicago, and possibly Madison.  Unsure of all this trip will entail, we are committed to having fun and making the most of every moment offered to us. Similar to the way we've lived these last six weeks we will squeeze out the most of this adventure, learn from saying goodbye, look forward to the new friends awaiting us and laugh until our muscles ache, or at least I hope so.

The Things shared bear hugs and tearful goodbyes with our gang of friends in the "hood", otherwise known as Clairmonte.  It was a challenge for me to watch them, teary eyed, waving and yelling out the window until we finally pulled out onto the highway.  Uncle Jeff and Aunt Natalie gave us a show  on the way out too.  After squeezes and wiping away tears they were set on providing comic relief.  Their bums danced, preparing to show us the "moon" and we all hollered at them thankful that we were laughing.  Gosh how we'll miss them.  And that sweet little niece of ours.  On the bright side, we are residing in the same country now. 

That about sums up our last week.  Last lunches, coffee dates and chats, dinners,  hugs and goodbyes.  Photos taken and emails exchanged, new addresses shared and the promise of staying in touch.  Lest I forget the special friendship bracelets made by our sweet friends.  All this a part of the process as we say.

So, here marks the beginning, of the next chapter.

The Fourth and Some Stuff

A bit of a catch up for y'all.  If you're interested that is, and well if you're not you wouldn't be reading this blog anyway.  We have spent the last few weeks visiting Minneapolis, finding a home and school, scouting football facilities and clubs for the Things, purchasing a new vehicle, coordinating travel plans and customs shipments, tying up some loose ends in Turkey and taking care of all our necessary appointments here in Franklin.  Not to mention, spending as much time as possible with our family and friends as possible, all the while training for an upcoming half marathon.  Needless to say I have been a taxi driver, master schedule keeper and the bad guy when I say no.  Husband Jared has driven to Eden Prairie with Polo-Lolo, dropped one of our vehicles in our new home state of MN and checked our sweet pup into the pet hotel.  He accomplished the drive in one day of fourteen straight hours on the road, with only a few pit stops for him and his canine companion to stretch their legs and take care of some business.  Wow.  That makes me tired just reading it.

In the midst of all of that planning we did manage to take some time out for fun.  Thing 4 spent the weekend at the lake with his best buddy, B.  He wake boarded for the first time and was successful at bass fishing at Pickwick Lake.  What a weekend he had and what memories he made.  Thank you D family!  Grandpa and Mema had a fourth of July celebration at their place, complete with fireworks and some pond swimming for the Things.  The girl Things and their friends hung out in the tree house for dinner and enjoyed a fireworks show that lit up the sky. 
The next day we celebrated our country with our church family at Grace Chapel.  There was an incredible Blue Grass concert, activities for the kiddos and a grand fireworks display that knocked our socks off.  It might have been the longest show ever, truly a gift for all of us.  Just as soon as I thought it was over it continued with patriotic music and lights throughout the sky.  Wow and more wow. 

 Only a snapshot of the magnificence we saw
 Our group getting ready for fireworks

The Things and K did some patriotic face painting before the event
And since then we have seen Grandpa Royce and Grandma Lavonne, spent a night out with Jeff and Natalie, had a kid swap with the Horels and had the privelege of remembering what it was like to spend the day with a 14 month old while the Things ran wild throughout Nashville Shores with Uncle Jeff and Aunt Natalie and even camped out at the Horel Bunk house with Pappo and Grammy. What a sweet summer it has been in Franklin.